Tag Archives: Thailand

Photo Series: James And Bob The Elephant, BFF’s For Life!

Elephants in Thailand

On my first trip to Thailand, I spent a lot of time in the mountain paradise of Pai.  About two weeks to be exact.

During that time, I experienced many of the things that the Pai Valley had to offer, including one of many elephant camps.

Thanks to my friend Katie, who seemingly knows half the people in town due to spending seven winters in this sleepy place, I was able to meet my new pal shown above.

Feeding an elephant in Thailand

Bob, was hungry, so I fed him some delicious elephant grass…

elephant hugs in Thailand

… and found out that he was more than pleased with my generous gift.  Awww, elephant cuddles!

Have you connected with a friendly pachyderm on vacation in Thailand?  Share your tale below!

Photo: The Wisdom Of The Buddha

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Buddhism has a huge influence in Thailand, with 95% of the population claiming Thervada Buddhism as their religion. As such, there are many exotic (to us foreigners, that is) golden and brass houses of worship across the country, along with countless centuries old brick stupas.  When you walk into these sacred places, there are a number of different things you might see, ranging from idols that honour various animals, to gold leaf covered Buddha statues.  One thing that I always scope out a temple for though are the sayings of the Buddha.  Frequently, you will signs in Thai and English, imparting the wisdom of the Buddha to visitors.

The above saying is particularly apt in today’s modern world.  Technology has us constantly distracted, deflecting attention from the things that truly matter in the real world: beauty, the taste of food, the laughter of a friend, and so on.  Also, the careful considerations of one’s actions could make a huge difference in the life of many people.  So often, we live our lives on autopilot, making automatic decisions that may be creating sub-optimal results in our everyday lives.  By questioning seemingly easy decisions that we take for granted, we may, as the sign says above, begin to prosper where prosperity had not been present before.

Try it.  What do you have to lose anyway?

Photo: Deserted Waterfall At The Top Of A Mountain Trail In Northern Thailand

This waterfall greeting me at the top of a Mountain Trail In Northern ThailandA deserted waterfall at the end of a hike up a small mountain 40km south of Sukhothai, Thailand … a worthwhile payoff to a morning of hard effort

After receiving a tip from some local Thais at the resort where we were staying in Sukhothai, my travel mates and I rented bikes and set off south of the city, in search of a remote waterfall in a small national park, virtually unvisited by fellow foreigners.  Not thinking it to be much more than a walk in the woods, I threw a bottle of water in my day pack, slipped on my well-worn sandals, and set off on the road with my trusty Honda Click.

After paying the entrance fee to disinterested gatekeepers, who were more wrapped up in the Thai soap opera playing out on their fuzzy TV in the corner, we set off in search of our secret chute in the wilderness.  Shortly after, it became apparent that sandals were woefully inadequate footwear for this trail, as it ascended 20-30 degree grades at the worst of it, and towards the end, we had to scramble over granite boulders.

We survived, though, and our reward was 100+ foot high waterfall, a delightfully chilly plunge pool (which required sandals to walk in without hurting your feet) with a cloud of dainty yellow butterflies hovering overhead … and not another soul to be seen.

When you push through hell, or any other less than ideal circumstance, take heart: most of the time, an incredible reward awaits you at the top.

Photo: The Ancient Ruins Of Sukhothai, Thailand

The Ancient Ruins Of Sukhothai don't see as many visitors as other sites in Thailand ... their loss is your gain The main ruins complex at Sukhothai, Thailand, as seen at High Noon…

Passed over by many travellers and tourists that have already seen the ancient Thai ruins at the more conveniently situated site in Ayutthaya, the remains of the medieval period capital of Siam in Sukhothai can come as a complete surprise to people with no idea what to expect.

In many respects, the ruins in Sukhothai are in better shape and are far more accessible to visitors.

Upon arriving in the Old Town via songthaew from the New Town (20 baht as of 2010, which was when the above picture was taken), guests can rent bicycles for 50 baht/day.

This makes cruising around the ruins a breeze and enables shots like the one seen above.

Ever been to the Ancient Ruins Of Sukhothai?

Photo: Monkey Business In Lopburi Thailand

Get up to some monkey business In Lopburi Thailand during your Southeast Asian backpacking tripA new simian friend hangs out with me on the bars of the Monkey Temple, in the centre of the Old City in Lopburi, Thailand

It’s easy to breeze past all of North Central Thailand if you don’t have an interest in ruins/temples. Between Bangkok and Chiang Mai, there are a few cities that have ruins that will interest the archaeology buffs among us, but for those looking for highlights in other areas, inquiries into the area comes up pretty thin.

This is when it pays to take a leap of faith and get off the beaten track. Textbook example: Lopburi, Thailand. Hands up if you ever heard of this place before. Unless you’ve scoured the internet for every bit of info on Thailand, or read your Lonely Planet guide from cover to cover, chances are you haven’t.

It does help to try and find whatever information you can about these places, though. Hmmm, Lopburi? A city overrun by monkeys? They’ll steal food and other objects (like your camera) right out of your hands? Sounds like a time! Off to Monkeytown we go!

As it turns out, unless you’re remarkably unaware of your surroundings, you’ll be fine here. Walk among them and they won’t swarm you (unless you have food obviously). Except for a few aggressive alpha males, they are largely harmless, and even in the case of those guys, just keep your distance and they won’t bother you. As you will find out, the monkey business in Lopburi Thailand is a totally cool thing to witness.

Their antics are adorable, and the babies are oooh, so cute!

Any monkey tales to share from the road? Tell us about our encounter with your genetic cousins below!

Photo: Movie Night On The King’s Birthday, Lopburi, Thailand

Movie Night On The King's Birthday in Lopburi, ThailandLocal Thais watch a movie on the King’s Birthday in Lopburi, Thailand.

The King of Thailand is one of the world’s most revered monarchs. Ask any Thai, and the vast majority will espouse how the King has led the country from being an agrarian nation at the conclusion of World War II, to a modern and well-regarded state where people’s quality of life has vastly improved. Everywhere you go in the country, you’ll see giant portraits of King Bhumibol and Queen Sirikit. Small framed photos of the King can be spotted in shops, guesthouses, and homes. Despite the fact that Thailand is a constitutional monarchy, which means that the King has no real political power, politicians often call on him for advice, and nobody dares to disrepect him when he voices an opinion, one way or the other. Indeed, it is a crime to insult the King in Thailand.

On the date of the current King’s Birthday (December 5), a bank holiday takes place throughout the entire country. Speeches to honour the King take place on TV, the sale of alcohol is banned (stock up before this day and ALL other scheduled Buddhist holidays), and festivities, including fireworks, take place across the entire nation.

In Lopburi, one of the events they held to honour Rama IX was a movie night on the King’s Birthday. Right outside my guesthouse door, they had a giant video screen set up, where they were showing videos trumpeting the King’s leadership over the years through various tough times. The movie shown above was one concerning typhoon Gay that struck places like Surat Thani and Koh Samui in 1989, making it the first tropical disturbance to form in the Gulf of Thailand and make landfall since 1891. Over 600 people in Thailand were killed, necessitating a massive relief response.

The King led the formation of a charitable organization, which sprung into immediate action in the wake of that disaster, and it has been called upon in other calamities in the years since then (the most notable example being the Tsunami that struck Southwestern Thailand back in 2004, killing 7,000 people). The video was very well-produced, and it did an excellent job to help explain why Thais love their King so dearly.

Ever been in Thailand during the King’s Birthday? What events did you witness/partake in?

Photo: Gilded Chicken Statues At A Shrine, Ayutthaya Thailand

Optimized-hpim1111Shiny blue and golden chicken idols, near Ayutthaya, Thailand

For many first time explorers in Thailand, sights like the one depicted above may come as a surprise. Denoting symbolism that has no direct comparison with Western culture, it definitely contributes one of many additions to the “WTF” file when exploring this exotic country.

If you want to know however, the chicken statues displayed here are at the shrine to the former Thai King Naresuan in Ayutthaya Thailand. When he was a prisoner in Burma back in the 1500’s he had nobody to talk to, save a bunch of roaming chickens. Having his Castaway moment, Naresuan anthropomorphized them into feathery friends, got through his ordeal alive, and later immortalized them in statue form.

Cool story. But even cooler statues!

What’s the most bizarre thing you have ever seen on your travels?

Photo: Lumphini Park, Bangkok’s Version Of Central Park

Optimized-hpim1021Lumphini Park, Bangkok, Thailand

Bangkok, like many cities across Asia, tend to be a sprawling concrete jungle, teeming with traffic and people, but with precious little in the way of green space.

Which is precisely what makes places like Lumphini Park in Bangkok so special. An oasis of grass and greenery in the midst of soaring skyscrapers and concrete shophouses that dominate this megalopolis of 14 million people, it is a welcome relief for all who happen upon it. Joggers, Tai Chi enthusiasts, and office workers seeking a temporary escape from the office all frequent this space of relative calm, finding solace in the hectic lives that they lead.

Worn down from your time in the Big Mango? Take the MRT to Silom Station and take a break in one of Bangkok’s most relaxing spots!

Koh Chang’s Got More Than Beaches. Like This Amazing Thai Waterfall.

Optimized-hpim0967Just one of several stunning waterfalls accessible in the interior of Koh Chang, Thailand.

With my latest (unplanned) trip to Thailand well underway, one of the first places I’m going to make a point of visiting is Koh Chang, the second largest island in the country. However, it largely remains off the tourist grid because it isn’t in the south of the country, where the tourism heavyweights of Phuket, Samui, and Phangan reside.

Now, I’ve established that Koh Chang has beaches in a previous post, but did you also know that it contains its fair share of waterfalls? Containing mountains in its interior that rise to approximately 600 metres at its highest point, and a robust rainy season that is nearing its apex, and you have a recipe for some spectacular chutes of water.

The picture above was taken about a month into the dry season. Imagine what this Thai waterfall must be like now?

Photo: Full Moon Over Lonely Beach on Koh Chang

Optimized-hpim0917The full moon shines through the clouds on a festive night in Koh Chang…

Throughout the world, Thailand is well-known for the rowdy celebration known as the Full Moon Party. Some love it, reveling in its trademark neon body paint, techno music, and bottomless buckets. Others hate it with a passion.

And still others are intrigued by the concept of partying and having a good time with only the moonlight to guide your dance steps, but they are turned off by what they see and hear at Koh Phangan’s flagship version of the event. The massive crowds of 30,000 people, excessive drug use, theft.

Well thankfully, that Southern Thai island doesn’t have a monopoly on moonlight and beaches. It turns out that Koh Chang has both as well. Minus the massive crowds. When I was the version of the party that Lonely Beach on Koh Chang threw, there were maybe a couple hundred people at the most out on the sands. It just felt right.

So if the crowds down south intimidate you, look east. Koh Chang may just be the place for you to find your groove under the faint light of the moon!